Letter Back to Agency

So this is the email I sent back to our agency. I guess it speaks for itself.

Good afternoon, 

Eric and I carefully reviewed the potential surrogate’s file, and I must admit that we are very sad and quite disappointed. When we first met with your agency months and months ago we were given the impression that your gestational carrier candidates are extensively vetted and held to the very highest of health standards. That said, we have a few concerns:

  • The potential surrogate has been pregnant five times and suffered three miscarriages, one with her current partner. 
  • The potential surrogate has had two c-sections and her file indicates her OB/GYN did not approve her as a candidate for a VBAC. 
  • The potential surrogate hasn’t given birth in over nine years. 
  • The potential surrogate currently has a Mirena IUD. Even if that is removed this week, the hormones can remain in her body and alter future pregnancies six or more months into the future. Plus, she isn’t having periods. We have no indication her body would cycle normally. 
  • The potential surrogate was rejected by Surrogate Solutions just this past April 2022.
  • Last, and possibly the most concerning complication, the potential surrogate’s file mentions Chorioamnionitis, a very serious infection of the amniotic fluid. 

We are not comfortable working with a surrogate with this many complications. I’ll follow up with a phone call soon to discuss next steps for Eric and I. 

Thank you,

Stefanie

So Much at Once!

Ya know how life is so boring, and then all the sudden, everything happens at once?? That’s today.

With the girls both in school now, Nadia in kindergarten and Nora in 2nd grade, I’ve been finding myself with a lot more time. Which means a lot more time to ponder my life and what I want to do with it. I definitely haven’t been cleaning the house more, LOL. But as my sister told me last night, I don’t have to do anything. But a life with no goals or dreams feels somehow unfulfilling.

So here’s what I’ve had up my sleeve for the last few months… I’ve been researching and studying for certifications to open a Neurofeedback Center. Haven’t heard of it, here’s a very short clip, but seriously, just google it, there is a ton of information out there. Like, so much information, this is just once tiny look at what it is.

So I’m super excited. I already have one system which I’ve been treating myself and my family? I looked at commercial rental space, and have a place I really like picked out, although haven’t signed a lease yet, so it might be taken by tomorrow, LOL. I have some furniture in mind, a plan to buy more of the equipment I need… you get the idea. Website in the works, although I still need a good name for the business. Anyone creative out there??? And there Nora and I am, all hooked up!

Also, a few years ago I look into a program at The Institute of Integrative Nutrition. Years ago it felt too overwhelming, as I was just starting to learn about health and how eating plays such a huge role in our overall wellness. But now, after a few years, and lots of learning from my daughters’ practitioners, I think I’m ready to officially take all this knowledge on and become certified as a Health/Life Coach. I know, not where I thought all this would take me… But I’m super excited. Our family has been through so much hell with our girls’ health issues. If I can help even one person, make our journey to health a little bit easier, than awesome! The program is all online, but takes a year, so not something to jump into lightly. I just got off the phone with the advisor and we talked about me starting with the next session, which begins later this month.

And then guess who called? The director of our surrogacy agency. They want to present a surrogate candidate to us today. I have no idea what to expect, but I’ll let you know!

Snowy Monday

We woke up to a beautiful snowfall this morning. The only thing that could have been more beautiful would have been a school delay, so I could have slept in 🙂 Eric was up very early to travel out of town for one of his outreach clinics, thankfully the roads were okay.

Nora is still crying at school drop-off. We’re waiting for some of the same test results we received for Nadia. Do I think Nora has full-blown PANS/PANDAS? No, but I do think there might be something going on with her immune system which in turn is causing some neurological symptoms, like the mood swings, separation anxiety, trouble getting and staying asleep, etc. I’m anxious to see her results which we should have in maybe a week or so.

Nadia is doing surprisingly well despite the fact that we completely stopped her antibiotic a few weeks ago, which she had been on for months and months. I was scared, but so far so good. We’re working on more gut healing now, both through trying to reduce gluten and processed sugars, and also with a few supplements which are known to increase the intestines mucosal layer and tighten cell junctions. I say trying to reduce gluten, as it’s really, really hard. And we really should be reducing dairy too, but what the hell would she eat then?? It’s definitely been a process. Some days I feel like we do okay, other days we mess up a lot and eat awful crap. My main issue is planning ahead, as it’s the days I haven’t planned exact meals that we grab something quick. One of my biggest issues with both the girls is their snacking. They want to snack all the time, always saying they are hungry, but when they sit down for a snack they eat a few bites and want to move onto something else. Drives me crazy. It’s occurred to me that maybe we snack so often, that the don’t even understand the feelings of hungry and full. And OMG healthy food is expensive. And we have wasted so much lately as I try new things and then no one in the house will eat it…


Last week I worked really, really hard and finally submitted almost everything the surrogacy agency needs to move forward in search of our particular surrogate. Let me backup, as I’m not sure how much of this I have shared… A few months ago we connected with a legal team in Illinois that specializes in surrogacy law. We signed a contract with them to represent us in the agreement with the agency that will locate our surrogate, which is also located in Illinois, the only agency our fertility clinic uses. We finally reviewed and signed the agreement with the surrogacy agency too. So many agreements! Then we were asked to submit a few items to move forward:

  • Background check forms, easy enough, basically just signatures to allow them to pull our information.
  • A large sum of money, both for a beginning escrow account to pull needed expenses from, and also a fund specifically for the surrogate’s travel and other expenses.
  • A bio about our family, basically why we are looking for a surrogate, what lead us to this point, about our lives growing up, our families, about the girls… you get the idea. I assume it’s similar to something adoptive parents might submit to birth mothers. Potential surrogates will read it and decide if we are a family they want to work with.
  • A bunch of pictures of our family.
  • A lengthy questionnaire detailing our preferences, for example, would you terminate for down syndrome, do you have a preference of the racial background of your surrogate, are there any religious beliefs that need to be considered… It was kind of long.
  • Proof of marriage, which can you believe we couldn’t actually find our marriage certificate?? We requested another copy for the state. Hopefully it doesn’t actually take the two months to arrive which the paperwork stated… I actually don’t know why they need proof of marriage, as you don’t have to be married to use a surrogate. But, whatever I guess.
  • And then proof of any prior marriages or divorces. And of course I couldn’t find my paperwork from my divorce that was like fifteen years ago. I looked everywhere and came up empty handed. I thought you could look up divorces through the court system, but I couldn’t find anything online. I’ll have to keep searching for something I guess.

The other necessary requirements I think we already completed, like the psychological evaluation, physical exams, lots of testing, like STD, AIDS, etc., I guess because they are putting our tissue (the embryo, which is currently frozen) into someone else. But the embryo was created almost eight years ago, so not sure how testing us for those things is necessary now when we were tested way back when during IVF for this things.

So that’s what I know at this point, basically waiting for the marriage license and still searching for divorce documents. I assume finding a suitable surrogate isn’t exactly an easy process, but the agency does specialize in this, so I trust they know what they are doing, and just hope it doesn’t take the full twelve months or so that our contract states they have to find such a woman.

More to come on this!

Forms

It’s been a week since the rude woman at my fertility clinic told me she wasn’t sure wanting to avoid the nicu was a medical reason for surrogacy. Do I call her? I did get the generic packet of information they send everyone. Maybe we just fill out the forms assuming we are cleared to proceed…

Surrogacy Consult

I spoke with Robin at Advanced Reproductive Resources (ARR) this morning… and I think I’m even more confused now… She explained the entire program in 55 minutes, I couldn’t even take notes fast enough! Of course she would have re-explained anything I needed clarification on, but at this point, I don’t even really know what to ask.

One of the first things she mentioned… was to plan for this to cost $130,000. I assume she was saying this to prepare me, and not to scare me. She suggested some financing options, although honestly I think we are fine in this area. Probably the only area I’m not worried about… which I realize is huge. This will just give me more energy and time to freak out about every other thing.

Robin obviously has been in this business awhile, she seemed very prepared, although somewhat rushed. Perhaps she had a million other clients to speak with today as well… I got the impression the clinic is somewhat small in regards to number of employees, although maybe there are lots who work behind the scenes who were not introduced to me today.

We did discuss using a surrogate we know, perhaps my friend… That would drop the agency fees from $39,000 to $8,000 and we could decide the compensation amount and schedule of payment to the surrogate rather than use their set plan. They would still manage the agreement, which would be very, very helpful. Honestly though, I don’t know… How would I know what to pay a personal surrogate? And while 31k savings is a chunk of money, if that is the only savings… is it worth it to pick your surrogate, and possibly ruin a friendship?

After I got off the phone this morning with ARR I called and left a message for the women who handles surrogacy with our fertility clinic. I want to get more information from her… Is it worth having another consult with them about me carrying the embryo…? I don’t know. The idea of another NICU stay terrifies me. What’s better though, the scary you know, or the scary you don’t know…?

Best Friend = Surrogate?

There’s this girl I know. Slightly younger than me, someone I met when I moved here the first time, so about four and a half years ago we met. And since I’ve moved back we have reconnected and become what I would consider best friends. I see her several times a week, we have a lot in common, I feel like I can tell her anything… She’s that kind of friend. I don’t want to say much more to protect her privacy…

Today she told me she would be willing to be our surrogate. She said she actually thought about it after she had her first child, she has two children now, so she did a lot of research then and knows the process in some detail.

I was seriously touched. Who can say they would do that for another person? Grow a child. Give up their body for almost a year. And while it’s tempting, I’m stuck on all the downsides, specifically it ruining our friendship.

I promised myself I would call the surrogacy agency today and schedule a telephone consultation.

Schedule Consult?

I finally heard back from the surrogacy agency in Chicago that works with our fertility clinic. I quickly glanced over the information they sent, which is really basic at this point, but I noticed their pay structure is pretty much completely opposite of the first agency I contacted. The first place lists out all the fees, like an a la carte menu of fees. And they pay the surrogate throughout the pregnancy, I think she gets so much of her base ‘salary’ each trimester. The agency in Chicago lumps the fees together as one fee and the surrogate is paid the entire amount before the embryo transfer even takes place. Of course, there are additional payments made to her later, like extra money for a c-section, an allowance for maternity clothing, etc. I’m honestly not sure how either of these pay structures would alter the total spent, or if it matters, since I assume we would use the agency that works with our clinic.

I’m not sure how I feel about any of this, yet, being all I’ve really determined are costs… So of course I’m already feeling, what’s the word… taken doesn’t seem quite right. Ripped off isn’t right either. I don’t know, it’s hard to know that a woman gets paid quite a bit of money whether she carries a baby to term or if the embryo doesn’t even implant. Yes, I know she is growing my child for me. But with money mentioned first… this feels very much like a job she is applying for… Or at least that’s how these fee sheets portray it. And if that’s true, what incentive does any surrogate have to get through the pregnancy? I know, the goodness of their heart, but they technically get paid a salary, which makes me feel like most? some? will view it as a job…

I’m sorry, this post was not meant to be so negative, just already feeling like this process is aimed to benefit the surrogate, but not necessarily the ‘intended parents’ as they are referred to… Which also bothers me. Intended gives the impression, well, that it could turn out to be them, or maybe someone else! Like, why use the word intended?? I’m the parent of this embryo, whether this pregnancy progresses or not, why not call us the parents? 

I think I forgot to mention, I need to schedule a telephone consult with the agency as the next step.

Okay, rant over, for now.

Surrogate Agency Issue

So wouldn’t you know… The surrogacy agency I contacted in Iowa, Heartland Surrogacy, doesn’t work with The University of Iowa, which is where our embryo is frozen… Apparently the U of Iowa only works with Alternative Reproductive Resources (ARR) out of Chicago. So… I sent them our information and I’m waiting for a reply. If I’ve learned anything regarding infertility, it’s that nothing is easy or fast. Why our fertility clinic doesn’t work with Heartland… I’m not sure. Maybe because ARR has been in business for over 20 years, and Heartland is much newer, but that’s only a guess on my part. Of course we can move our embryo to a fertility clinic that Heartland does work with, but I trust the U of Iowa, so I feel I must trust the agency they prefer.

I know I mentioned in my last post that we only have one frozen embryo, so the overall chances of this resulting in a child are somewhat slim, being the embryo has to survive the thaw, implant in someone else’s body, and then proceed through a surrogate pregnancy with all the risks of any traditional pregnancy. Seems almost impossible when you think about it that way. And would we do another round of IVF to get more embryos? I don’t know. I doubt it. I honestly feel very content with my two girls. A part of me just feels like this embryo deserves a chance at life. If we didn’t have the embryo, we probably wouldn’t be thinking about adding to our family.

In other news… The girls are back to crying at preschool drop off. In fact, the first thing they say in the morning, the minute they are out of bed at 5AM no less, is, “I don’t want to go to school.” Can this be normal? Don’t they have fun with their friends? They always seem happy when I pick them up…

Yesterday I visited the private Catholic grade school connected to their preschool, the grade school I assume they will attend. An admissions open house was offered. Little did I know, it would result in an hour-long personal tour. It was good, but a lot of information! Should I also be visiting the public school in our district, just to make sure I’m making the right decision for the girls? My reasoning for the Catholic school is mostly because I attended a Catholic grade school and high school… It’s really all I know. Of course, if you ask private school parents they will say, oh, you want private, fewer behavior issues, much smaller classes… And if you ask pubic school parents you’ll hear, oh, you want public, as they have so much more funding and therefore far more opportunities. What’s best for the girls, I don’t know. How do other parents decide? And can you even believe we are talking about grade school??? Nora will be a kindergartener in August! And I already signed Nadia up for the 4-day preschool program beginning in August. She is currently in their 2-day program, so I hope this isn’t too much for her.

Eric left for Las Vegas yesterday morning for a “work” trip. Yes, there is a Urology conference he is there for, but he’s also meeting friends, so there’s no way in hell I believe he won’t be enjoying this trip as more of a vacation. And yes, he certainly deserves some time away, but I’d like some too! And wouldn’t you know, the girls are extra crabby and whiny when he is away. I swear he thinks I make that up, but they really are way more difficult when he is away. For example, Nora is usually my great sleeper, but last night she woke twice crying for me, which of course woke Nadia. And how do you get two upset kids back to sleep alone? So I was trying to go between their rooms, which wasn’t working at all. Finally we all got into Nora’s bed, but that was almost worse as the girls would not settle down together. It was an awful night, and we were all up for the day at 5am, all very tired and moody. I’m wondering how they did at preschool today. Nadia gets a nap, but Nora doesn’t. Might be an early bedtime tonight.